NAIROBI - The first ever meeting bringing together political parties from all East African Community (EAC) member states kicked off yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya, with officials reiterating the need for partner states to cede some powers if integration is to take shape.
The forum, that brings together 200 delegates, provides an opportunity to the political organisations to examine their manifestos, establish areas of convergence and propose ways on how to participate in the regional political processes.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it at the same time; our countries should cede some sovereignty powers if we are to act as one regional bloc with the same aspirations,” Peter Munya, Kenya’s Assistant Minister for EAC Affairs said.
Lack of political will on the part of some partner states has largely been cited as one major challenge to the current efforts to foster regional integration.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said there is still a huge gap between the political class and bureaucrats, which makes it difficult for important decisions to be implemented within partner states.
Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) member, Connie Bwiza, told the meeting that if the political federation concept is to achieve any success, it should be taken down to the grassroots for internalisation.
“Let us have this whole idea homemade right from the grassroots just for people to own it,” she said.
East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) member, Abdul Karim Harelimana, said that there was need for political parties in the region to practise internal democracy and include the Political Federation idea into their manifestos.
The Executive Secretary for the Forum for Political Parties of Rwanda (FPPR); Anicet Kayigema, said that he would ask all political parties to espouse political federation as one of their major priorities by popularising the idea.
“If this needs financial support, we shall offer it because it’s important that our people understand what it entails,” Kayigema said.
The meeting, which closes today, is expected to come up with resolutions on which roles the parties will now play in popularising the EAC, especially on the importance of deepening economic and political integration as well as defining their role in mitigating election violence.